Part 1: The what and the way
At the end of July I set out to not only preach nearly every week, but to take time to review my own sermon. Inspired by something a friend said (and knowing that it isn’t reasonable to attend a preaching conference every year), I decided that this was a way to help me reflect critically on my own preaching.
Every now and then I have a brilliant sermon; I aim for good; I know that not every sermon is good. On any given Sunday, I know that there are things I could have done better. It may be a good sermon; I may have preached the Good News; I may be able to have done a better job. I wanted build some time on that question into my week. And I wanted to do it publicly. Because I of the accountability and because preaching isn’t an arcane art that mysteriously produces sermons.
There are nine things I include each week in my sermon review.
- A link to the audio of my sermon. Because if you are willing to read through the rest of this, you might want to hear what I preached.
- Summary of what I was saying and why. I keep this in case you haven’t listened to my sermon or have already forgotten what I said. It also gives me a chance to talk about why I used a particular text or focused on something. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been making the best use of this so far.
- Theology: One of my internal checks against preaching ruts and/or getting stuck in a sermon is to ask what the theology of the sermon is. (It has helped me write the conclusion of more sermons than I can count.) So I have this one here for me more than anyone else.
- Jesus Count: I adopted this from my preaching professor. It’s about how often the preacher mentions Jesus. I tend to measure with a low, moderate, or high count.
- Good News: The (hopefully) one sentence summary of what I thought people might hear in the sermon.
- What did I change on my feet? I preach without notes. A manuscript gets in my way and my memory lets me do it. Which means that sometimes things get better or left out on Sunday morning.
- Every week I’ve asked myself what did and didn’t work. No giant revelation has come out of this. That doesn’t surprise me. I often know fairly quickly what I wish I would have said or a phrasing I fumbled. This is also about being transparent.
The great surprise in all of this was my last minute addition. As I was considering what to questions should be asked every week, what would be helpful, how to frame this thing so I wouldn’t tire of it after a month, I remembered something. One of my favorite parts of preaching conferences is hearing other people’s sermons. So I added a section for sermons other people preached and I liked. Every week I read or listen to 4-10 other sermons (it depends on my time and how many other sermons have been posted) and select 2-4. I look for sermons with a style I enjoyed, a different theology than I preached, or which simply delighted me.
Coming: Part 2: Did it work and What I’ve learned and Part 3: The Other Preachers